Orchestras Live Trustee, Simone Willis, shares reflections and her personal highlights of being part of the board.
I had never considered becoming a trustee before - mostly because I didn’t know what it meant - so I was surprised when it was suggested to me. I didn’t know of anyone else who was a trustee at the time and had imagined boards were made up of retirees wearing suits. At the time, I was 28, working as a peripatetic music teacher, and had recently started a PhD in stress and wellbeing of musicians.
I turned my research skills to finding out about the roles and responsibilities of the board and read a lot of documents by the Charity Commission. After this, I found out about the work of Orchestras Live and their approach to producing orchestral experiences. I thought I could contribute my perspective on working for a music hub and my own experiences of learning the violin and studying at a conservatoire. I became a trustee for Orchestras Live in 2017 and have enjoyed seeing the organisation flourish over the past six years.
There have been several musical highlights over this time, from seeing the Multi-story Orchestra in a car park in Gloucester, to hearing a premier composed by Oliver Vibrans and performed by musicians from the Able Orchestra, Halle, and BBC Philharmonic, to attending projects involving children and young people in Darlington and Stroud. Each of these events has been filled with energy, bringing people together to share and enjoy music in a collaborative way.
I have also been able to share my personal experiences of being a Black woman in classical music and contribute to the Diversity, Inclusion and Relevance Committee. Whilst my own experiences have not always been positive, it has been beneficial to share these with the team at Orchestras Live and to contribute to making classical music a more inclusive space.
It was a delight to chair one of the Regenerate events during the pandemic on the topic of diversity and inclusion and hear from a range of voices in the classical music industry. Whilst there is still a way to go before the industry becomes truly inclusive, I have appreciated Orchestras Live’s approach to having open conversations and striving for all projects to be inclusive.
Being a trustee has been a hugely rewarding experience. The skills I have learnt from being on the board of Orchestras Live have benefitted me both personally and professionally. I have acquired leadership skills, learnt to express my views in the board room, and developed my understanding of strategy. Since becoming a trustee for Orchestras Live, I have also become a trustee of Sinfonia Cymru. I look forward to continuing to use my skills with Sinfonia Cymru and in my professional role as a researcher at Cardiff University.